Patrick Svitek

Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll solicit individuals for donations to fund his plan for a border wall

"Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll solicit individuals for donations to fund his plan for a border wall" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

When Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that Texas would build its own border wall, one of the immediate questions was who would pay for it.

Abbott has not fully detailed the plan yet, but he said in a podcast interview released Tuesday that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.

“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute," Abbott said on the podcast, a show about Republican politics called “Ruthless."

Abbott made national headlines with his announcement Thursday in Del Rio that Texas would build its own wall at the Mexico border, though he provided no further details and said he would lay out the plan this week.

In the meantime, Abbott has faced threats of legal action and a bevy of questions about where, when and how such a wall could be constructed.

Abbott said in the podcast interview that the donations to Texas' border wall will go to a fund “overseen by the state of Texas in the governor's office." He promised “great transparency," saying “everyone will know every penny in, every penny out, but the sole purpose for those funds will be going to build the border wall."

Abbott's plan would not be the first attempt to crowdfund a border wall. There was We Build The Wall, a private fundraising effort that raised more than $25 million after originally planning to construct 3 miles of fence posts in South Texas. Last year, four people involved in We Build The Wall — including Steve Bannon, the former adviser to President Donald Trump — were charged with allegedly defrauding donors to the effort. Trump pardoned Bannon before leaving office in January.

A closer parallel to Abbott's plan may date to 2011, when the Arizona Legislature passed a law establishing a fund, complete with a fundraising website, to construct a fence along the state's border with Mexico. The fund received almost $270,000 by 2014, and a state border security advisory committee decided to give most of the sum to a county sheriff in 2015. The sheriff instead invested the money in border security technology such as GPS systems and binoculars, according to the Arizona Republic.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/15/texas-border-wall-greg-abbott/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Allen West resigns as chair of Texas Republican Party

"Allen West resigns as chair of Texas Republican Party" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas GOP Chairman Allen West announced his resignation Friday morning, raising speculation he could run for statewide office.

West, who has been in charge of the party for shy of a year, will remain chair until a successor is picked on July 11, the party said.

“It has been my distinct honor to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. I pray Godspeed for this governing body," he said in a statement.

The party said that West “will take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter in his already distinguished career."

West has not ruled out challenging Gov. Greg Abbott, and he has also had tension recently with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The state office for Land Commissioner is also an open seat this election season now that incumbent commissioner George P. Bush has announced he's running for attorney general.

A former Florida congressman who moved to Texas several years ago, West took over the party last summer, unseating incumbent James Dickey. He quickly made a name for himself for his willingness to speak out against fellow Republicans, including Abbott, whose coronavirus response he criticized.

West used the latest legislative session to push hard for the party's eight legislative priorities, and he has spent recent days lamenting the lack of progress that lawmakers have to show on them.

West is set to appear at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. in Whitehouse, near Tyler, to discuss the session.

Abbott has already drawn a primary challenge from former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas. In addition to West, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller could also take on Abbott. On Tuesday, Abbott was endorsed for reelection by former President Donald Trump.

Abbott is not the only statewide official with whom West has butted heads. Toward the end of the session, he put pressure on Patrick, the presiding officer, to pass a House-approved bill allowing permitless carry of handguns, questioning Patrick's commitment to the cause and alleging the Senate added "poison-pill amendments." Patrick eventually wrangled the votes, he got the bill through the Senate and it is now on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature.

Without naming West, Patrick said in a statement at one point after the bill passed the Senate that those who claimed the Senate-amended bill was in peril "willfully misled many Second Amendment supporters in Texas."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/04/texas-allen-west-republican-resigns/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vows to defund state Legislature after voting restrictions bill fails

May 31, 2021

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vows to defund state Legislature after voting restrictions bill fails, threatening salaries" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he would veto the section of the state budget that funds the Legislature hours after a Democratic walkout killed his priority elections bill.

“No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities," Abbott said in a tweet. “Stay tuned."

Late Sunday night, enough Democrats left the House to break a quorum and block passage of the elections bill, Senate Bill 7, before a midnight deadline. Calling the bill's failure “deeply disappointing," Abbott quickly made clear he would call a special session to get it passed, though he has not specified a timeline.

Abbott's tweet referred to Article X of the budget, which pays not only lawmakers and staff but also funds legislative agencies, such as the Legislative Budget Board. Under the current budget, the legislative branch is funded through the end of August, and the budget Abbott is referring to covers the fiscal year starting Sept. 1.

Abbott has until June 20 to carry out the veto.

State lawmakers are paid $600 a month, equal to $7,200 per year. They also get a per diem of $221 for every day they are in session, including both regular and special sessions.

Democratic legislators quickly criticized Abbott's veto announcement.

“This would eliminate the branch of government that represents the people and basically create a monarchy," state Rep. Donna Howard of Austin tweeted.

SB 7 was one of Abbott's emergency items, as was another proposal that died Sunday that would have made it harder for people arrested to bond out of jail without cash.

Abbott's tweet came minutes before the House adjourned sine die, finishing its regular session. In remarks from the dais, GOP Speaker Dade Phelan acknowledged lawmakers had unfinished business.

“We will be back — when, I don't know, but we will be back," Phelan told members. “There's a lot of work to be done, but I look forward to doing it with every single one of you."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/31/texas-greg-abbott-funding-legislature/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Leadership tensions, potential special session loom as Texas legislative session hits uncertain end

The 2021 Texas legislative session is heading into its final weekend fraught with uncertainty and tension between the two chambers that could lead to a special session.

After three of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's priorities effectively died Tuesday night in the House, the Senate presiding officer called for a special session to pass them, jolting the final several days of a session that was already on track to be the most conservative in recent memory. The last day of the session is Monday, and procedural deadlines have been increasingly cutting off opportunities to hash out key issues.

In some ways, it is a familiar story from past sessions: Tensions between the two chambers are peaking, and Patrick is putting pressure on Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session for unfinished business on conservative priorities. Patrick got his way in 2017, forcing a special session in an ultimately failed push to pass legislation to regulate bathroom use by transgender people.

Patrick specifically wants a June special session — prior to the special session that Abbott is widely expected to call this fall to address redistricting and COVID-19 relief funds. Abbott indicated Wednesday he was not immediately on board with Patrick's demand, and he put a finer point on his resistance Thursday afternoon during an unrelated news conference in Fort Worth.

"That's pretty goofy because everybody knows there's only one person with the authority to call a special session, and that's the governor," Abbott said of Patrick's push for a special session, adding that those agitating for a special session should be careful what they wish for.

During special sessions, lawmakers are only allowed to consider legislation on subjects selected by the governor. Abbott said that if he initiates a special session, he would not load up the agenda with multiple items for lawmakers to address at once but would "go one item at a time."

"So if anyone tries to hold hostage this legislative session to force a special session," Abbott said, "that person will be putting their members, in the Senate or the House, potentially into a special session for another two years because I'm gonna make sure that we get things passed, not just open up some debating society."

Patrick appeared caught off-guard by Abbott's "goofy" comment later Thursday, asking a TV interviewer multiple times if the governor had really said it. Patrick went on to say it was "not goofy" to request a special session, arguing it was the only option left to him at this point in the session, despite Abbott's insistence that there is still time to salvage the three items.

Also in TV interviews Thursday afternoon, Patrick denied that the Senate was purposely sitting on legislation to trigger a special session. Speculation ramped up around that possibility overnight when the Senate missed a deadline to consider a seemingly must-pass bill to extend the life of state agencies.

"I support the governor but I'm pointing out that, and clearly he's the person that can call it, only person, but I have a right and so does everyone else to ask him to call it and that's what I'm doing," Patrick told Spectrum News in Austin. "And there was a reference about holding hostage, I'm not holding anything hostage."

At the Fort Worth news conference, Abbott insisted he "strongly" supports the three incomplete priorities that prompted Patrick's call for a special session: Punishing social media companies for "censoring" Texans based on their political viewpoints, outlawing transgender students from playing on sports teams based on their gender identity and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying. The issues cap a session that has already seen a slew of long-sought wins for conservative activists, including permitless carry of handguns and a "heartbeat" bill that could ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Despite the high-stakes staredown with Patrick, Abbott downplayed any perceived disunity among the state's leaders, saying the back and forth was to be expected in the final days of a session.

"If the leaders in the Legislature will stop fighting with each other and start working together," Abbott said in Fort Worth, "we can get all of this across the finish line."

Abbott and Patrick traded comments as lawmakers Thursday afternoon sent Abbott a roughly $248 billion spending plan for the state for the next two years, which is the only legislation constitutionally required to pass during a regular session.

But the comments between the two also came after tensions had been simmering inside each chamber for days. Last Thursday, the House stopped work for the week out of frustration that the Senate wasn't passing enough of its priority bills.

Patrick hardly concealed his disdain for the House in remarks to the senators from the dais on Wednesday night, speaking hours after his special session demand.

"As you all know, the House was not here Friday," Patrick said. "The House was not here Saturday. The House has already quit for today. So we're working hard, we're passing bills— they weren't here for two days in the last five. They're gone now. They killed key bills of yours last night, because they weren't here."

The Senate ended up working hours past midnight Wednesday.

As the senators worked, House Speaker Dade Phelan attempted to enter the chamber to watch proceedings but was denied entry because he did not have a wristband proving he had tested negative for the coronavirus, as Quorum Report first reported. Members, staff and the general public have been required to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering the chamber floor or gallery as part of the Senate's pandemic protocols that have been in place throughout session.

Phelan " is always welcome in the TxSenate and was not denied entry [tonight]," the lieutenant governor's office tweeted early Thursday morning. "Messengers offered to get him a wristband, but the Speaker declined and left."

In a jab at the Senate later that morning, Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican and top lieutenant of the speaker, rattled off statistics comparing the number of House bills and Senate bills the two chambers have taken action on in a series of questions from the chamber's back microphone.

Is it true, Burrows asked Phelan, that "less than 50% of the House bills that we sent over were passed by the Senate, are you aware of that?"

"The chair is not advised," the speaker replied.

"By comparison," Burrows said, "of those bills considered and passed, is it true that we passed 75% of the Senate bills sent over to us?"

"75% is a lot of Senate bills and sounds accurate, Mr. Burrows," Phelan said.

Burrows' line of questioning seemed to reflect the frustration felt by some House members such as Rep. James White, a Hillister Republican, who told the Tribune on Thursday that the Senate had not yet acted on three of his legislative priorities for the session.

White, who chairs the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, said his committee "did not delay one damn Senate bill" this session.

"Tension is good sometimes," White said. "We're all working hard, and I'm proud of the work my committee did."

Other House members were not afraid to take shots at the Senate on Thursday, including Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican.

"The GOP senate bashing the GOP house last night for not working late," Larson tweeted, referring to Patrick's comments made in the Senate the night before. "DP Ego .. ugh."

House Democrats had been most focused on killing Senate Bill 29, which would require transgender student athletes to play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their gender identity. Waving blue and pink transgender pride flags, Democrats celebrated when the midnight deadline to pass the bill came before a vote had been held.

In a radio interview the next morning, one Senate Republican vowed that the issue of transgender student athletes would remain front and center.

"It's not going away," Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills said, speaking minutes before Patrick issued his call for a special session. "You can delay this, but this is not going away."

Abbott has not been outspoken about bills targeting transgender youth this session, though he said during a Fox News appearance last month that he would sign a bill like SB 29.

Like in 2017, Abbott again finds himself facing intraparty pressure to call a special session ahead of a reelection year. This time, though, Abbott is facing more opposition from his right: He has already drawn a primary challenger in former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas, and Texas GOP Chairman Allen West and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller have not ruled out bids against Abbott.

Huffines said Wednesday he backed "calls for an imminent special session," while West voiced support for a special session as long as it addresses the state party's legislative priorities. One of those priorities is abolishing taxpayer-funded lobbying.

Miller, meanwhile, said in an email to supporters Wednesday that a special session to pass Patrick's three unfinished priorities "now looks likely."

Top political aide to Texas agriculture commissioner arrested in scheme to take money in exchange for hemp licenses

"Top political aide to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller arrested in alleged scheme to take money in exchange for hemp licenses" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

The top political consultant to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was arrested Thursday on allegations that he participated in a scheme to solicit money and campaign contributions for state hemp licenses issued by Miller's Texas Department of Agriculture.

The consultant, Todd Smith, ultimately took $55,000 as part of the scheme, an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Texas Tribune says. Smith and others involved in the scheme are alleged in the warrant to have solicited a total of $150,000 to guarantee a license, including a $25,000 upfront cost for a survey that they said was required to get a license in Texas. Some of the money would also go toward funding unnamed political campaigns, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit alleges that Smith committed third-degree felony theft.

Reference

Read the affidavit against Todd Smith here.

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“Todd Smith created by words and his conduct, a false impression of fact that affected the judgment of others in the transactions to obtain a hemp license and/or conduct a survey that was never attempted by Todd Smith," the affidavit says.

Smith did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday morning. Miller told the Tribune on Friday afternoon that he "had no idea" about the alleged scheme.

"That was Todd, between him and his clients," Miller said, adding that he would reserve judgment until he could learn more about the situation.

Miller noted, however, that hemp licenses are not particularly expensive for those who want them, with farmers having to pay $100 for a one-year license.

Smith's arrest was part of an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers' Public Integrity Unit, which is responsible for looking into claims of public corruption.

“This matter is being investigated by the Texas Rangers on behalf of the Department of Public Safety in collaboration with the Travis County District Attorney's office," Travis Considine, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Friday afternoon. "Our offices will be keeping the community updated as more information becomes available."

Smith was arrested Thursday and booked into Travis County jail at 9:23 p.m., according to Kristen Dark, a spokesperson for the county sheriff's office. Smith was released at 2:59 a.m. Friday on a personal recognizance bond. Bail was set at $10,000.

The affidavit says Smith used another person as a middle man between himself and those interested in getting licenses. The affidavit does not provide much information about the middle man other than that he was “introduced to Todd Smith by a friend in August 2019."

The affidavit includes the account of one man who wanted to get involved in the hemp industry and met the middle man at a social gathering in August 2019. The affidavit says the middle man told the license-seeker that he was “working directly with senior leadership at the TDA" and that he “needed $150,000.00 in cash, with some of the money going toward campaign contributions, in order to receive the 'guaranteed' hemp license."

The license-seeking man agreed to the deal, setting off a chain of events that included a November 2019 visit to Austin where he handed the middle man $30,000 cash in a car outside El Mercado, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Austin near the TDA offices, according to the affidavit. Williams went through an alley to take the money to the TDA headquarters before returning to the car and collecting Vinson for a scheduled meeting at the offices.

The affidavit says the license-seeker learned later that month that he was not guaranteed a license, despite the scheme that had been proposed to him. He reached Smith via phone, who “denied any knowledge but did admit to receiving a $5,000.00 gift from" the middle man, according to the allegations.

The hemp licenses were opened as a result of House Bill 1325, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in 2019 and allowed the state's farmers to legally grow industrial hemp. Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant that contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.

Smith has previously been under scrutiny for blurring campaign and official lines. The Austin American-Statesman reported in 2018 that Smith told a San Antonio businessman he could get a TDA appointment if he donated to Miller's campaign — then Smith asked the businessman for a $29,000 personal loan.

Years earlier, Miller created four new assistant commissioner positions and gave one of them to Smith's wife, Kellie Housewright-Smith. The positions had annual salaries exceeding $180,000, making them among the highest-paid employees at the TDA.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/07/sid-miller-todd-smith/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst arrested on domestic violence charge

"Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst arrested on domestic violence charge" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has been arrested and accused of domestic violence.

Dewhurst was arrested Tuesday evening in Dallas, according to Dallas police. He faces a misdemeanor charge of family violence.

Dewhurst was arrested after police responded to a disturbance at an address near Dallas Love Field Airport and met with a woman who said she had been assaulted by a male acquaintance, police said. Officers identified the man as Dewhurst, 75, and took him into custody.

Dewhurst was released from jail early Wednesday morning after posting a $1,000 bond, according to records from the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

Dallas police said the Public Integrity Unit will investigate the incident.

Dewhurst was lieutenant governor from 2003-15. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, losing to Ted Cruz, and lost reelection as lieutenant governor in 2014 when Dan Patrick beat him in the Republican primary runoff.

Dewhurst's personal life made headlines last year, when his girlfriend was arrested twice, accused of kicking him and breaking two of his ribs in one of the cases. A grand jury decided not to indict her in connection with the first incident, according to KPRC-TV. Last week, charges were dropped in the second case, which involved the girlfriend allegedly throwing candle wax at him.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/14/david-dewhurst-arrest/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas GOP congressional candidate loses prominent supporters after racist comment about Chinese immigrants

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A Republican candidate in the special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington, is facing intense backlash and has lost two of her biggest supporters after saying she does not want Chinese immigrants in the United States.

The comments by Sery Kim, a Korean American who served in the Small Business Administration under President Donald Trump, prompted California U.S. Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel to rescind their endorsements of her on Friday. Young Kim and Steel are the first Korean American GOP women to serve in Congress.

“We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy," the lawmakers said in a statement.

The candidate has been unapologetic, however, arguing that she was speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party and blaming the "liberal media" for the uproar. She said she "will not back down from speaking the truth" about the party.

Sery Kim made the anti-Chinese remarks earlier this week at a GOP forum in Arlington while responding to a question about U.S. immigration issues.

“I don't want them here at all," Kim said of potential Chinese immigrants. “They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable."

“And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean," she added.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased since the coronavirus pandemic started in China. Trump has repeatedly blamed China for the pandemic and called the coronavirus "the Chinese virus." Kim's remark came less than a month after the Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent.

The comments have received condemnation from groups including the DFW Asian-American Citizens Council and AAPI Progressive Action, which works to build political power around Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Kim is one of 11 Republicans — and 23 candidates total — on the May 1 ballot to fill the GOP-leaning seat seat of Wright, who died earlier this year after being hospitalized with coronavirus.

Young Kim and Steel endorsed Sery Kim early on in the race, about a week after the filing deadline last month.

In their statement pulling their endorsements, the two lawmakers said they spoke Thursday with Sery Kim “about her hurtful and untrue comments about Chinese immigrants, and made clear that her comments were unacceptable."

“We urged her to apologize and clarify her remarks, especially as hate against the AAPI community is on the rise," the congresswomen said. “However, she has not publicly shown remorse, and her words were contrary to what we stand for."

Asked for a comment on the loss of the endorsements, Kim provided a statement that said: "I am shocked that in an effort to counter Asian-American hate the liberal media is targeting me, an Asian and an immigrant, in an effort to paint me as anti-Asian and anti-immigrant just for speaking against the oppressive Chinese Communist Party."

In the statement, Sery Kim went on to call the Chinese Communist Party the "foremost threat to the free world." She said she has received more "death threats and racist comments" since the forum controversy than she has in her entire life, and that the voters of the 6th District deserve "someone who will fight for them — who will literally put their life on the line for them."

Until this week, Sery Kim was not a particularly well-known candidate in the special election. The Republican field also features Wright's widow, GOP activist Susan Wright, as well as state Rep. Jake Ellzey of Waxahachie.

On the Democratic side, at least one contender, Lydia Bean, pushed back on Sery Kim's forum comments, saying they target people like her Chinese American husband, Norman, and their 10-month-old son. Norman's parents came to the United States from China in 1966, Bean said.

"This type of speech, no matter who it comes from puts their lives in danger," Bean, a 2020 Texas House candidate, tweeted Thursday. "It's racist, and it's not who we are in Texas."

Early voting for the special election starts April 19.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/03/sery-kim-texas/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Ted Cruz touts Trumpism in Florida while Biden visits Texas after storm leaves millions without power and potable water

Sen. Ted Cruz declares Trumpism among Republicans "ain't goin' anywhere" at Florida conference" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in a speech Friday at a major national conservative gathering, joked about his recent trip to Cancún during the Texas winter weather crisis and promised that former President Donald Trump would be a lasting force in the Republican Party.

Cruz appeared at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, as President Joe Biden headed to Texas to see the state's recovery from last week's storm, which left millions of Texans without power and potable water. The Democratic president was set to be joined in Houston by the state's senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, as well as Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans.

Cruz opened his CPAC speech by poking fun at his ill-timed visit to Cancún, which sparked a national uproar late last week. Cruz returned early from his trip, calling it a "mistake."

“I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It's not as nice as Cancún," Cruz said, pausing amid laughter in the crowd. “But it's nice."

Cruz went on to use the address to rally Republicans against the Biden agenda and for the next two election cycles. At one point, he brought up Trump and said there were some in Washington D.C., who want to move on from him.

“Let me tell you this right now: Donald Trump ain't goin' anywhere," Cruz said, arguing the GOP has become the party of “not just the country clubs" but also blue-collar workers.

“That is our party and these deplorables are here to stay," Cruz added, referring to the term Hillary Clinton used to describe some of Trump's supporters in the 2016 presidential race.

Cruz led up to the declaration by referencing a report Thursday that an old intraparty nemesis, ex-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, told Cruz to “go f--k yourself" in an off-script moment while recording the audio version of his new memoir.

“Yesterday, John Boehner made some news," Cruz said. “He suggested that I do something that was anatomically impossible — to which my response was, 'Who's John Boehner?'"

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/26/ted-cruz-cpac-trump-cancun/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

How Ted Cruz's attempt to overturn Biden' win ended in violence at the US Capitol: analysis

Two nights before the Electoral College certification in Congress, Ted Cruz was in vintage form.

The junior U.S. senator from Texas was calling in to a friendly conservative radio host — Mark Levin — and setting up Wednesday's vote to be the kind of intraparty line in the sand that has powered his political rise.

By then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had made clear that he opposed objections to certifying Joe Biden's election as the next president. But Cruz and 10 other GOP senators announced they would still object unless Congress agreed to an “emergency audit" of the presidential election results.

Cruz told Levin that there were some conservatives “who in good conscience" disagree with his view of Congress' role in certifying the presidential election results, and that he had talked to them and did not fault them. On the other hand, Cruz said, there were “some Republicans who are not conservatives but who are piously and self-righteously preening" when it comes to the issue.

In spearheading the group of objectors, Cruz arguably upstaged U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, who announced his plan to object three days earlier — and, like Cruz, is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.

But on Wednesday, what Cruz might have thought was a savvy political play took an alarming turn: Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol while lawmakers were considering Cruz's objection. Three people suffered medical emergencies during the siege and died; their deaths were in addition to another woman who was shot by a Capitol police officer.

Cruz denounced the violence but incurred a fierce backlash from critics in both parties, who said his drive to question the election results — and appease the president and his supporters ahead of a possible 2024 run — helped fan the flames of anger among Trump supporters. Prominent Texas Democrats called for him to resign. Many others suggested he'd played an inciting role in one of the darkest days in modern American history.

Politically, it was a high-stakes distillation of GOP tactics in the era of Trump.

“His challenge of the Electoral College votes helps him among core Trump supporters but risks further damaging his political standing among rank-and-file Republicans like moderates and suburban swing voters who have traditionally formed a stable winning coalition for Republicans in Texas and nationally," said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, who added, “Siding with Trump is risky."

In recent months, Cruz has positioned himself as one of the most prominent and vocal Trump supporters casting doubt on the election. Two days after Election Day, Cruz charged that Philadelphia officials were not allowing election observers to watch the counting of votes in the swing state, even though Trump's lawyers conceded that they had been allowed in the room.

In December, Trump asked Cruz if he would be willing to argue a long shot case filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate the election results in states like Pennsylvania in the event that it reached the U.S. Supreme Court. (Cruz agreed, but the high court ultimately said Texas did not have standing to bring the case.)

And in the days ahead of Wednesday's certification, Cruz raised concerns about how many people believed fraud had occurred in the election, without acknowledging the role he had played in encouraging those beliefs.

“We've seen in the last two months unprecedented allegations of voter fraud," Cruz said in an early January interview on Fox News. “And that's produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country. I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that."

But people in both parties have questioned his motives.

“Proposing a commission at this late date — which has zero chance of becoming reality — is not effectively fighting for President Trump," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, tweeted. “It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy."

As people stormed the Capitol building, Cruz insisted on Twitter that violence “is ALWAYS wrong" and called the attack a “despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system."

“Those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support," he said.

He did not, however, withdraw his objections to the Election Day results.

It didn't help that Cruz on Wednesday was fundraising off his Electoral College challenge, with some money-seeking texts hitting phones as Trump supporters wreaked havoc at the Capitol. (An aide to Cruz said the messages were sent “from a firm" and not approved by Cruz to be sent.) To Cruz's critics, including those within his own party, it was emblematic of the kind of naked political ambition that they have long abhorred about him.

“The Cruz effort had nothing to do with making some determination of whether or not there was fraud to reverse the outcome of the election and only to do with 2024 and the presidential primary," said Jerry Patterson, a Republican former state land commissioner who is open about his unhappiness with Trump, but conceded that he's voted for Cruz in past elections.

“That's why I could never get back into politics anymore. I'm sick and tired of the bullshit. And that's what it was," he said.

The episode not only gave fodder to Cruz's longtime intraparty detractors but also fellow Republicans.

“You have some senators who, for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters [and] misleading them to believe somehow yesterday's actions in Congress could reverse the results of the election," U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who is also seen as a possible 2024 contender, said in a TV appearance on Fox without directly naming Cruz. “That was never going to happen yet these senators, as insurrectionists literally stormed the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails."

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 nominee for president, raised similar frustrations on the Senate floor Wednesday night, without mentioning Cruz or other objectors by name.

“I ask my colleagues: Do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our Republic, the strength of our democracy and the cause of freedom? What is the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?"

To be clear, Cruz received backup from his own party. While his initial coalition did not hold, he was still joined by several colleagues in objecting to the certification of the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Dozens of House members, including many Texans, also objected in both cases.

The state's senior senator, John Cornyn, split decisively from Cruz, announcing he would not object in a lengthy letter to Texans on Tuesday, specifically pooh-poohing Cruz's emergency audit proposal. That contrast in particular heartened some Cruz supporters.

“Ted Cruz will be a stronger force in the Texas GOP than John Cornyn because of the way he has handled the last 30 days and because he doesn't answer to the same political elite that Cornyn does," said Luke Macias, a consultant for some of the Texas Legislature's farthest-right members. “Democrats' insane calls for Cruz to step down have only made him politically stronger."

Democrats, meanwhile, were apoplectic over his role. Two of the state's best-known Democrats, Joaquin and Julián Castro, called on Cruz to resign, as did the state Democratic Party. Cruz's old nemesis Beto O'Rourke emailed supporters calling for “accountability and consequence" against the Texas senator, who defeated O'Rourke in a Senate race in 2018.

“Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot," tweeted U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York. “Both you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion."

In Cruz's Houston hometown, activists lined the streets on Thursday, calling for his resignation while standing outside of a downtown skyscraper that houses one of Cruz's offices.

But to detractors asking him to leave Congress, Cruz responded curtly Thursday afternoon, “Sorry, I ain't going anywhere."

While Cruz himself doesn't appear to have any regrets for his role in inciting an insurrection — on Thursday he said he would do it all over again if he had to — his colleagues might not easily forgive under a new presidential administration.

Patterson, for one, thinks Cruz's future political prospects hinge on where Republicans go in the next four years — and whether they remain loyal to Trump.

“There was a reset yesterday of politics in America — at least I hope and pray there was," Patterson said.

Disclosure: The University of Houston has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/01/07/ted-cruz-riot-capitol/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Here's why John Cornyn won't be joining the effort to overturn Biden's win

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Tuesday that he isn't planning to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress, splitting with a growing number of GOP colleagues that most notably includes the state's junior senator, Ted Cruz.

In a lengthy letter to Texans, Cornyn noted that he has supported President Donald Trump's right to challenge election results in the courts but that Trump's lawsuits have gone nowhere, and recounts in multiple states have also failed to change the outcome. Trump has continued to push baseless claims of widespread fraud in the election, including at a campaign rally Monday night in Georgia.

"As a former judge, I view this process with the same impartial, evidence-based decision-making as I did my job on the bench," wrote Cornyn, a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court. “So, unless substantial, new evidence is presented during the challenges to each state's ballots, I will not object to the certification of that stave's election results based on unproven allegations."

"Allegations alone will not suffice," Cornyn said earlier in the letter. "Evidence is required."

Cornyn's position is not much of a surprise based on comments he has made in recent weeks expressing increasing skepticism about Trump's chances of overturning his loss to the president-elect, Joe Biden. But the letter marks Cornyn's most extensive explanation of his position yet, and it comes as Texas' other senator digs in on his plan, along with 10 other GOP senators, to object to the Wednesday certification of Biden's win unless they can secure an "emergency audit" of the November results.

A source familiar with Cruz's plans, but who was unauthorized to speak on the record, said that Cruz intends to specifically object to the certification of electors from Arizona. The news was first reported Tuesday by the Washington Post. Cruz told conservative radio host Mark Levin on Monday night that he did not want to "set aside the election ... but rather to press for the appointment of an electoral commission."

In his letter, Cornyn made clear he was not a fan of Cruz's audit proposal, which Cruz has said can be done in the 10 days before the inauguration. Cornyn suggested he too supports a review of election issues but something less hasty and more deliberate, such as an "independent commission" in the vein of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. That was a private bipartisan panel that looked into problems with the 2000 and 2004 elections.

"As to timing and practicality of an emergency audit, I am much more dubious," Cornyn said. "The design of the proposed commission to conduct such an 'audit' will inevitably fail."

Cornyn and Cruz are in very different positions politically. Cornyn is coming off a reelection victory in November that secured him another six-year term in the Senate, while Cruz has an eye toward 2024, when any presidential contender will likely need to stay in the good graces of Trump and his supporters.

Trump dinged Cornyn on Tuesday afternoon, tagging him in a tweet that told the "weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party" to heed his supporters' wishes for an election reversal. (RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only.") Trump also tagged two other senior Senate Republicans: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Thune, who previously incurred Trump's wrath for dismissing some House Republicans' intentions to dispute the Electoral College outcome.

Nearly half of the 23 Texas Republicans in the House have promised to object to the certification. At least four announced their intentions Tuesday: Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, John Carter of Round Rock, Troy Nehls and Ron Wright of Arlington.

Carter, Nehls and Wright all represent districts that national Democrats targeted in November, though each won their races by comfortable margins. Nehls was sworn in to Congress on Sunday after winning the hard-fought fall election to replace former U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, who did not seek another term.

"You sent me to Congress to fight for President Trump and election integrity and that's exactly what I'm doing," Nehls wrote on Facebook.

The other Texas Republicans in the House who have said they will object to the certification are Reps. Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Lance Gooden of Terrell, August Pfluger of San Angelo, Randy Weber of Friendswood, Pete Sessions of Waco, Brian Babin of Woodville and Ronny Jackson, the former Trump White House doctor who represents the Panhandle.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/01/05/john-cornyn-texas-republican-election-certification/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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